March 2, 2009
LOS ANGELES - The UCLA baseball team (2-6) takes on No. 12 Pepperdine (5-2) on Tuesday evening under the lights at Steele Field at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Game time is 6 p.m. Sophomore left-hander Matt Grace will start on the mound for the Bruins. Pepperdine will counter with sophomore southpaw Matt Bywater. The Bruins dropped three contests over the weekend in the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park.
SERIES VS. PEPPERDINE: UCLA leads, 51-36-4, since 1954
CURRENT SERIES STREAK: Pepperdine, one win
Tuesday, March 3 (6 p.m.)
Pepperdine - Matt Bywater, LHP, So. (1-0, 0.00)
UCLA - Matt Grace, LHP, So. (0-1, 7.27)
TICKETS AND RADIO
Admission to Tuesday's game at Jackie Robinson Stadium costs two dollars for adults and children, as part of UCLA's ongoing "Two Dollar Tuesday" promotion. UCLABruins.com Radio will broadcast Tuesday's ballgame, live from Jackie Robinson Stadium. All home games this season, in addition to select road series, will be broadcast live on UCLABruins.com.
BRIEFLY BACK HOME
UCLA plays No. 12 Pepperdine on Tuesday (6 p.m.) and hosts Keio University of Japan in an exhibition game on Wednesday (time moved to 4 p.m.). UCLA returns to the Midwest this weekend, when the Bruins open a three-game series at Oklahoma on Friday, March 6. Upcoming home games include midweek night contests against UC Santa Barbara (Tuesday, March 10) and San Diego State (Tuesday, March 11). The following weekend, UCLA plays a three-game set at East Carolina (Greenville, N.C.).
ABOUT THE WAVES
Pepperdine enters Tuesday evening's game with a 5-2 overall record, having earned a series victory at UC Davis last weekend. Senior outfielder Nate Simon leads the Waves with a .391 average (9-for-23), three home runs and nine RBI. Left-hander Matt Bywater is expected to start on the mound, having pitched seven scoreless innings in two appearances (one start) through the season's first two weeks. As a team, Pepperdine is hitting at a .299 clip, and the Waves' pitching staff has tallied a 2.67 earned-run average in seven ballgames.
LEADING THE PAC
Junior corner infielder Casey Haerther leads the Pac-10 Conference in various offensive categories, including batting average (.531), on-base percentage (.595) and hits (17). The resident of Chatsworth, Calif., has belted two home runs and collected seven RBI in eight games for UCLA. In five games last week, Haerther hit at a .632 clip (12-for-19), with a two-run homer at UC Santa Barbara (Feb. 24). Haerther has hit safely in all eight contests, extending his career-long hitting streak to 19 games (began May 16, 2008, versus Washington State). Haerther was one of four Bruins to capture Houston College Classic All-Touranment Team honors.
Ranked No. 1 in strength of schedule by Boyd's World, a nationally-respected ranking service, the 2009 UCLA regular-season schedule is lined with three consecutive non-conference weekend series away from the West. Following trips to the Houston College Classic, Oklahoma and East Carolina, the Bruins play nine weekends against Pac-10 opposition and a three-game non-conference set against Cal State Fullerton. In all, UCLA's travel schedule spans over 16,400 miles this spring, round trips included. The Bruins faced three top-10 teams at last weekend's Houston College Classic, hosted by the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Senior infielder Eddie Murray has batted .304 in seven games this season (all starts at second base). Murray belted his first career home run in a 7-6 loss at UC Santa Barbara last Tuesday, finishing the game 2-for-4 with two runs and one RBI. Murray collected a career-high three hits in a 3-for-4 effort against No. 10 Rice on Friday at Minute Maid park. The former standout infielder at Gahr High School earned Houston College Classic All-Tournament Team honors after having batted .400 with two RBI in three contests over the weekend. Murray has played in 70 career ballgames, earning 28 starts (27 on the infield, one as designated hitter).
STRONG 1-2 COMBO
Sophomore left-hander Rob Rasmussen and freshman right-hander Gerrit Cole have provided the Bruins with two capable arms the past two weekends. Rasmussen, who had his freshman season shortened after being struck on his left foot by a line drive in his collegiate debut (Feb. 27, 2008), has gone 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two Friday night starts. Cole has posted a 1-1 record despite not allowing any earned runs in 12.0 innings, logging a team-high 15 strikeouts while limiting the opposition to a .083 batting average (3-for-36). Cole's .083 opponent average ranks third-lowest among all Pac-10 pitchers (minimum, 1.0 innings per game).
MAJOR LEAGUE HOMER
Junior outfielder Justin Uribe was the only player in any of UCLA's three games in the Houston College Classic to belt a home run at Minute Maid Park. Uribe connected for his first home run of the year in the ninth inning against UC Irvine on Sunday. That marked the second homer Uribe has belted at a major league ballpark. As a senior at Foothill High School (Santa Ana, Calif.), Uribe ripped a game-tying three-run blast at Angel Stadium to lead Foothill to the 2006 CIF Southern Section Division II Championship against St. Francis High School.
Four Bruins earned Houston College Classic All-Tournament Team honors, as announced Sunday evening. Representing UCLA on the All-Tournament Team were first baseman Casey Haerther (8-for-12), second baseman Eddie Murray (4-for-12, 2 RBI, 1 R), outfielder Blair Dunlap (5-for-12) and pitcher Gerrit Cole (6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 8 K). Rice's Ryan Berry earned Houston College Classic Most Outstanding Player accolades after having totaled 12 strikeouts in a complete game, two-hit shutout of Texas A&M on Saturday night.
CELEBRATING 90 YEARS
The 2009 baseball season marks the 90th year of UCLA baseball. The Bruins have fielded a baseball team every year since 1920, when head coach Fred Cozens led UCLA to a 3-10 overall record. Including that inaugural season, UCLA has registered a record of 2,102 wins, 1,821 losses and 34 ties. In 90 seasons, the baseball program has seen eight head coaches and totaled 15 NCAA Tournament appearances. Most recently, the Bruins have logged three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths for the first time in program history. UCLA has totaled 33 wins each of the past three seasons.
ROUND TWO - OKLAHOMA
UCLA takes flight for its second consecutive weekend series on Thursday, when the team heads to Norman, Okla., for three games at No. 16 Oklahoma (March 6-8). Each of UCLA's three games at Oklahoma will feature a live audio broadcast from OU's L. Dale Mitchell Park, available online at uclabruins.com, as Tim Wilhelm will have the call. Last season, the Bruins and Sooners split a season-opening doubleheader (Feb. 23, 2008) before the series finale on Sunday was canceled due to rain. In the all-time series, UCLA and Oklahoma have played nine games, with the first six contests occuring in various NCAA Regionals (0-2 vs. OU at 1992 Mideast Regional, 2-0 vs. OU at 2000 Oklahoma City Regional, 2-0 vs. OU at 2004 Oklahoma City Regional).
Junior Blair Dunlap has sizzled in the first eight games of the season, posting a .414 batting average (12-for-29). Dunlap went 3-for-3 with one double, two RBI and one run in UCLA's season-opening 13-1 victory over UC Davis (Feb. 20). He went 2-for-5 with one walk, one run and one RBI in the series finale against UC Davis (Feb. 22). In a 5-1 loss to Baylor at the Houston College Classic (Feb. 28), Dunlap went 3-for-4 with one double. Last season, Dunlap batted .250 before earning All-Tournament Honors at the 2008 NCAA Fullerton Regional.
Freshman Chris Amezquita crushed his first collegiate home run in his first plate appearance as a Bruin on Feb. 20, in a pinch-hit at-bat with one out in the seventh inning. Amezquita became the first Bruin to record his first collegiate home run in his first game since Tim Murphy accomplished the feat on Feb. 3, 2006, versus Fresno State. However, Murphy's home run came in his second at-bat. Ironically, when promoted to the varsity squad as a freshman at Servite High School, Amezquita belted a grand slam homer in his first at-bat.
UCLA's catching corps may be among its more inexperienced units, however the collection of three catchers has performed well through the first two weeks of the season. Freshman Steve Rodriguez, sophomore Chris Giovinazzo and senior Gino Aielli have helped the pitching staff compile a 3.96 ERA while limiting the opposition to a .260 batting average. Additionally, each backstop has made contributions at the plate. Rodriguez (.267 avg, .476 OBP) went 3-for-5 on Friday, Feb. 27 against Rice. Giovinazzo (.259 avg, .444 SLG) has collected three doubles and one triple, and Aielli (.800 avg) has gone 4-for-5 with three doubles in limited playing time.
Senior Brendan Lafferty enters Tuesday night's contest against Pepperdine having logged a 1.23 ERA in five relief apperances. With his relief outing in Sunday's game against UC Irvine, Lafferty moved into a seventh-place tie with Dave Zancanaro on UCLA's career appearances list (78). Lafferty, who was named the Bruins' most valuable pitcher in 2008, made a team-high 33 appearances last season (all in relief), the most since Rob Henkel pitched in 34 games in 1997. He finished his junior campaign with a 4-3 mark, 3.74 ERA, three saves and 56 strikeouts in 67.1 innings.
Heralded freshman talents Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer have wasted little time making a positive impact on UCLA's pitching staff. Both Cole and Bauer were the only two pitchers named to the 2008 Los Angeles Times High School All-Star Team last spring, and rank first and third on the team, respectively, in innings pitched this season. Cole has collected 15 strikeouts in 12.0 innings. Bauer, who enrolled at UCLA in January after having graduated from Hart High School one semester early, has tallied 11 strikeouts in 10.1 innings. The right-hander from Valencia, Calif., has absorbed two losses despite a 3.48 ERA and .268 opponent batting average.
The Bruins welcomed two assistant coaches to the program last summer. Rick Vanderhook and Steve Pearse have joined the coaching staff and bring an extensive and impressive baseball background to Jackie Robinson Stadium. Vanderhook spent 21 seasons as an assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton and enters his 24th season coaching in the college ranks. He coached Cal State Fullerton to two national titles (`95, `04) and 10 College World Series appearances. Pearse begins his 20th season as an assistant coach and has helped lead his teams to the College World Series as an assistant coach (Cal, 1992) and as a player (Fresno State, 1988).
GIFFORD HITTING FACILITY
The UCLA baseball program broke ground on the Jack and Rhodine Gifford Hitting Facility in early December 2008 and began using the new practice complex during the first week of February. Located behind the fence in right field at Jackie Robinson Stadium, the Gifford Hitting Facility stands 23-feet tall and spans 10,500-square feet. UCLA's new practice complex has room for as many as five hitting cages and provides ample space for a tee area and defensive drills. UCLA is extremely grateful to the late Jack Gifford and his wife, Rhodine, for their support of and passion for the Bruin baseball program.
Baseball America has tabbed UCLA as its preseason favorite to win the 2009 Pac-10 title. The national baseball publication predicts the Bruins to finish ahead of Arizona State, Stanford and Oregon State, respectively. Casey Haerther is named by Baseball America as a preseason All-Pac-10 selection. The publication lists freshman right-hander Gerrit Cole as the conference's "top newcomer" and freshman right-hander Trevor Bauer as the Pac-10's ninth-best newcomer.
UCLA was selected second out of 10 teams in the 2009 Pac-10 preseason coaches' poll. Arizona State, picked to win the conference, and UCLA each received three of 10 first-place votes. Stanford, picked to finish third, gained one first-place vote, and Oregon State, selected fourth, captured two first-place votes. Arizona received the final first-place vote, being selected fifth in the preseason poll. California, USC, Washington State, Washington and Oregon round out the poll's 10 teams.